“Lidl are encouraging and empowering” Claire, Ethical Trade Manager
Claire came to Lidl in 2018 with a background in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). She had previously been working for a food supplier, but has always had a desire to work in retail.
What were you doing before you joined Lidl?
Before joining Lidl I worked for a seafood supplier – a company that imported own-label products for UK supermarkets. I was part of the technical team responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for our international supply chain. I worked directly with suppliers, focusing mainly on protecting the human rights of people within the supply chains.
What does your current role involve?
At Lidl, my job is to make sure that the people involved in making the products we sell have decent employment and that their basic human rights are respected. As the Ethical Trade Manager I am a part of the Buying department, working directly with our Buyers and our suppliers, supporting them in sourcing our food responsibly within the supply chain. As a lot of the challenges relating to human rights issues are not unique to Lidl’s supply chains we work closely with our partners and stakeholders within the industry, particularly with organisations such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and the MSC, who are able to certify the standards of our supply chains. The topics that I work on include responsible recruitment, tackling modern slavery and supplier social compliance. As you can imagine, we have many different, and sometimes, complex supply chains providing thousands of products so we need to ensure we properly understand where we need to focus our efforts.
Are there any particular challenges you’ve had to face?
A major challenge within this role is raising awareness of issues that are usually hidden and widely not understood. We need to take a technical and systematic approach in order to realise the complexity of these issues and understand what our approach should be in responding to them. Since we have a diverse international supply chain with many moving parts, it creates an evolving challenge in choosing where and how we prioritise to understand where we could make a difference and have the greatest impact.
Is there an achievement you’re particularly proud of?
Yes, since joining we have published product supply chains on our website to promote transparency. We published our first human rights policy and it is the basis for all our work in the coming years. It's a public commitment that complements our approach to CSR as a business. I think it’s incredibly important that we promote the work we do and discuss the challenges we face, since we have a shared responsibility within the industry, but also as a business.
What sort of qualities do you need to do your job?
I think it’s mainly about organisation and engagement with stakeholders, both internal and external. It's important that I represent the business, support colleagues and identify opportunities. I need to be able to share what I learn and raise awareness of the evolving challenges and opportunities to support protecting workers rights. It’s also about being adaptable and flexible in my approach which is something I love about this role.
Are there opportunities for training and development?
Yes, absolutely. There are opportunities both internally and externally for both human rights specific topics and personal development. I attend several conferences and events throughout the year, alongside other retailers and partners. It's about collaborative engagement, making sure the topics I'm focusing on are evolving and not static and that we are in line with the industry. There certainly isn’t a one size fits all solution either! Internally, there's a lot of opportunity to understand how other teams manage their work, how they work with external partners, but also how we can help them with any challenges they may be facing too. As a team, we’re sought after for our knowledge and expertise within CSR. In my case it’s human rights, but it could be anything to do with plastics and packaging, food waste, responsible sourcing or environmental sustainability.
Do you feel you have a good work life balance?
Yes, it works well. I live just outside of London and commute in by train. There’s a very structured approach to the business which I like as I think I work better with a routine. We have regular meetings and opportunities to discuss the way we work, and I feel in charge of my time at work and how I want to structure my day/week. Working just outside central London means I can travel in easily for both work and personal events with flexibility on where I need to work depending on my schedule. I think the work-life balance is promoted to everyone and considers what you need as a colleague.
What do you feel are the main benefits at Lidl?
I like the approach we take as a business to support each other and that colleagues feel empowered to speak up with new and improved ideas. I think we have a good work life balance which is supported by good pay. The expectation is set early on that you’re here to do your job to your best ability with support to push yourself, but you have autonomy on how you want to approach the role. Especially within the CSR team, we’re all experts within our own topic areas and this has made me feel valued to the business.
Are there a lot of opportunities for progression?
Absolutely, my team is expanding and it demonstrates how seriously the business is taking CSR. We've got a lot of expertise in the team already so I see an opportunity to increase my responsibility within my role. I would like to increase the scope of work and level of influence my role has over time, but as the topic evolves, I believe it will continue to be challenging regardless of my job title!
Finally, what four words would you use to describe Lidl?
Efficient. Flexible. Responsible. Empowering